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Title: Effects of Contour Furrowing on Soils, Vegetation and Grassland Breeding Birds in North Dakota

Author: Rich, Terrell D.;

Date: 2005

Source: In: Ralph, C. John; Rich, Terrell D., editors 2005. Bird Conservation Implementation and Integration in the Americas: Proceedings of the Third International Partners in Flight Conference. 2002 March 20-24; Asilomar, California, Volume 1 Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191. Albany, CA: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: p. 496-503

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: On certain soil types in the Northern Great Plains, mechanical treatment such as contour furrowing is used to break up “claypan” soils and increase grass production. The effect of this treatment on breeding bird communities has not been documented. I compared soil characteristics, vegetation, and the breeding bird community on two sites over three years in southwestern North Dakota. One site was contour furrowed in 1968 and the other, adjacent site, was not treated. The chemical makeup of the soil on the two sites was similar 20 years following treatment but vegetation cover differed. The treated site had greater cover of wheatgrass (Agropyron spp.) and non-persistent litter, and a lower cover of buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis), spikemoss (Selagenella densa), and an unidentified lichen than the untreated site. Breeding bird densities did not differ between the treated and untreated site in any of the three years, but the relative abundance of Chestnut-collared Longspurs (Calcarius ornatus) and Vesper Sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus) was greater on the treated site. Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) were the most common species on both sites, and there was little difference in the occurrence of Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri), Lark Buntings (Calamospiza melanocorys), and Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta). Thus, mechanical treatment did not change the density of breeding birds but rather shifted the composition of the avian community. Sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) apparently used the untreated site more than the treated site and may be adversely affected by this treatment.

Keywords: Chestnut-collared Longspur, contour furrowing, grassland birds, grasslands, Horned Lark, land treatment, livestock forage, North Dakota, Vesper Sparrow

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Rich, Terrell D. 2005. Effects of Contour Furrowing on Soils, Vegetation and Grassland Breeding Birds in North Dakota. In: Ralph, C. John; Rich, Terrell D., editors 2005. Bird Conservation Implementation and Integration in the Americas: Proceedings of the Third International Partners in Flight Conference. 2002 March 20-24; Asilomar, California, Volume 1 Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191. Albany, CA: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: p. 496-503

 


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